Monday, December 15, 2014

Vanilla Macarons with Lemon Curd Filling

Macarons are just the cutest, sweetest little pastries. Everyone loves them! They are even my 2 year old son's favorite treat. :) They are perfect for gifting. Perfect for parties. And, of course... perfect for eating! The crisp exterior and chewy interior of the macaron paired with a delicious filling make for a really special treat. 

Don't be too intimidated by what you already know about making macarons. Yes, they are a bit technical and time consuming. But, they are very do-able and even if they don't end up looking perfect in the end they will still taste amazing! 



2/3 cup (3 oz.) ground almonds
1 1/2 cups (5.25 oz.) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
5 T. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture twice through a sieve. Set aside.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar (sprinkling one tablespoon at a time into the whites) as you beat the egg whites. As you start to get a stiff meringue add the vanilla and food coloring if you wish. Continue beating. When the meringue has reached stiff peaks and is glossy it is done!

Add half of the sifted flour mixture. Stir it with a spatula, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl. When fully incorporated add the rest of the flour and repeat the process of scooping up from the bottom. When the flour is incorporated press and spread the batter against the bowl's sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom, turn it upside down and press into the bowl (pressing all the air out). Rotate the bowl and continue about 15 times. This technique is called Macaronnage and it is really important in order to achieve the "pied" or the little foot that you see on the bottom of each macaron. 

Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large, round tip. On parchment lined baking sheets, pipe the batter into small rounds (I trace circles onto parchment paper ahead of time as a guide). Gently rap the baking sheet against the counter to smooth the surfaces of the macarons and get out any air bubbles. Dry the batter at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes. 

Stack the baking sheet on top of another baking sheet (using two trays prevents over baking the bottoms). Bake in a 375ºF oven for 15-18 minutes, until slightly crisp and before browning occurs. Remove tray from oven and place on a cooling rack. When the macarons are fully cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. 

Fill with any type of filling you wish: lemon curd, ganache, buttercream frosting, etc. Store macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Silent Night Cake

As most of you know I have been (slowly, but surely) working on my Baking and Pastry Associates degree. I only have a few more classes until I finish the entire program and I will officially be a Certified Pastry Chef. I am so excited! This semester I took the Advanced Bread Production class and the Beginning Cake Decorating class and I finished this semester 8 months pregnant with only 3 weeks until my due date... cutting it pretty close, I know! 

For my final project I made a yellow butter cake with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream filling. After crumb coating the cake I covered it with white fondant that I brushed with pearl dust to add a little shimmer. Then I used royal icing to pipe the pearl border at the bottom. I mixed a little vodka with black food coloring to paint the music staves (the black, horizontal lines that the notes go on) and I used black royal icing to pipe the treble clef, the bar lines and the music notes. I actually piped out the song "Silent Night" since it was a really simple, easy song to pipe.  

For the poinsettia... I made each leaf out of gum paste that I food colored with red and green.  I rolled each leaf, inserted wire into them, pressed them with a leaf to make a more natural look and let them dry on a curvy surface. When they were completely dry I used floral tape to wire the bouquet together. 

I am planning to serve the cake at my Christmas music recital this week. I am so proud of all my music students so I thought a special cake would be a fun way to celebrate their accomplishments. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!